Security in telecom gear is a real issue, says DoT

Thomas K. Thomas New Delhi | Updated on April 29, 2013

Rebuffing PMO’s objections, stands by local manufacture policy

The Department of Telecom has defended its local manufacture policy, saying security issues are real. In a note prepared for the Prime Minister’s Office, the Department said spyware and malicious codes can be implanted during the manufacturing process and these may not get detected even with security testing.

“It is important to ensure that the environment in which the telecom product is manufactured is under sovereign control so that the problem is controlled at the root itself,” the DoT said, answering PMO’s concerns on the go-local policy.

The PMO had sent a note to the IT and Communications Ministry seeking clarity on how the proposed policy aims to link manufacturing requirements to national security.

The policy makes it mandatory for companies, government institutions and telecom players to buy at least 30 per cent of their electronics and hardware requirements from manufacturing facilities in India. The policy also stipulates that manufacturers must ensure that value addition happens locally.

Grounds for objection

The PMO had sought clarification after the US Trade Representatives and the European Commission raised objections on grounds that the policy goes against WTO agreements. Most foreign hardware vendors have also raised objections, saying the policy is tantamount to forcing them to set up a manufacturing unit. The Commerce Ministry too thought the policy would be hard to defend under international trade treaties.

Rebuffing the objections, the DoT, in its note to the PMO, said that although India has seen unprecedented growth in the telecom sector, there is no domestic production of equipment. “Ericsson and Nokia Siemens have manufacturing facilities but they have never tried to develop backward integration and have been dependent till date for all their components on their parent company or other foreign vendors,” the note stated.

To a comment made in the note sent by the PMO, to keep the policy on hold till a full assessment of current manufacturing is done, the DoT said that the suggestion was similar to the ‘chicken and egg’ story.

Published on April 29, 2013

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